Brent Asked:a-022
Hi Andy,     

I’m glad to see from your site that some people are fishing in this cold weather. Not me. But I am thinking about it. A recent article on the Polish Nymph Rig in the always informative Midwest Fly Fishing magazine got me thinking about my own nymph rigs.

In particular, the Polish Rig ties dropper nymphs off the tag ends of knots in the rig. The first dropper is tied on the tag end of the improved clinch knot. The second dropper (the heaviest) is tied on the tag end of a surgeon knot. 

My two nymph rig is typically a tandem, with the second fly tied to a piece of tippet which has been tied to the bend of the first fly’s hook. I typically use improved clinch knots throughout this rig. I know this rig works pretty well, and the knots are strong. 

It seems to me that tying a two fly rig with the first fly as a dropper off the tag end of the tippet knot would reduce my knots by one (more time fishing). It might also give the first fly a more natural drift, since there will not be a second fly gently tugging on it. 

My concern is with the knot strength of droppers tied to the tag end and the frequency of losing two flies at once. The tag end of the surgeon knot should be pretty strong, I guess. But the tag end of an improved clinch knot would seem to be a weaker attachment point. If the tippet breaks there, won’t both flies come off? 

What is your experience? How do you and your buddies tie up multiple nymph rigs? 

Tied up in knots, 

Brent, I also read the article in Midwest Fly Fishing Magazine on Polish nymphing by Bob Linsenman. This method of nymphing has a long track record of success throughout the international fly fishing community. There are few folks that I know fishing this rig on our local trout waters, probably because of the dynamics of our smaller spring creeks. Most notably, size of the water (distance across) and consistent depth over long stretches (“strong riffle 3 to 4 feet deep”). Look at the picture associated with the article and ask yourself if that looks like the water you fish?  Don’t get me wrong, this is a very effective technique for fishing sub-surface, you just need to identify water that fits the application.  

The diagram of the rig on the first page would have a total of 6 knots, if I am seeing it correctly. 1 on each end of the swivel and 1 for fly#1, for a total of 3. 1 for the double surgeon’s knot and 1 for fly #2 attached to the tag, for a total of 2. And one knot for the last fly.  A two fly rig as you describe it, has 3 knots. 1 to the first fly, 1 to the bend of the first fly and 1 to the second fly. Tying a two fly rig with the #1 fly attached to the tag of a double surgeon’s knot still has 3 knots. 1, which is your double surgeon’s knot, 1, ties the fly to the tag, and 1 that ties to your second fly. No knot savings time there. 

The drift question is an interesting one. I am one who believes in experimentation. There is a thrilling satisfaction in discovering something new about fly fishing technique, and even more thoughtful, where that technique may work best, and even more thoughtful, at what time of year will that work best and even more thoughtful, in what specific set of circumstances and situations will that technique work best. The best anglers I know have the ability to catalogue this technique information and use it at the appropriate time. This ability evolves through experimentation with different techniques, and then remembering when and where to use them. How does a fly hanging on a 6″ tag drift differently than one tied “in-line” with another? Would this rig be better in rocks or wood? Does it drift more naturally? How does a split shot affect the drift? These are great questions that I can not give you a definitive answer to. There are many theories to ponder and I would be interested to hear the opinions of some readers to see if we can shed some light on this question of drift.

I still believe that knot strength and the associated fly loss are factors that fly anglers think too much about. All of the knots that you speak of are good knots. All of the tests, whether scientifically administered or not, done on different knots have no way of taking into account the multitude of factors, either singly or combined, that a knot may experience under actual fishing conditions. I can tell you this for sure. If you fish 2 flies, occasionally you will lose 2 flies and if you fish 3 flies, occasionally you will lose 3 flies.  Be diligent about checking your knots for stress. Practice tying your knots well, and for goodness sake take this one off of your worry list. With all that is going on in the world today, a shorter worry list will only make your fishing more enjoyable.

Thanks Brent